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[4th World Water Forum]

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4th World Water Forum

Mexico City | March 16-22, 2006

World Water Conference

On Tuesday, participants at the 4th World Water Forum addressed the theme of "Risk Management" in plenary and thematic sessions, heard a keynote address by Mario Molina, 1995 Chemistry Nobel Prize Laureate, and focused on the Asia-Pacific region. The Ministerial Conference convened in parallel with the Forum, with ministers and high-level officials from some 140 countries gathering in both closed and open sessions.

Above: During the opening of the Ministerial Conference, children from around the world voiced a Call for Action on water, sanitation and education.

Tuesday, 21 March
Regional Presentation

Left: Kim Huk Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), welcomed the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum.

Right: Abdukhohir Nazirov, Tajikistan's Minister of Land Reclamation and Water Resources, reiterated Central Asia's commitment to strengthening water cooperation in the region for the achievement of the MDGs.
Keynote Address
Mario Molina, 1995 Chemistry Nobel Prize Laureate, addressed the inter-relationship between global warming and the water cycle. Characterizing our atmosphere's relative thickness to that of an apple skin relative to an apple, he said the amount of available air is limited, and stressed that mankind can indeed impact the atmosphere negatively.

Molina underscored the dramatic impacts of climate change on the water cycle, noting feedback mechanisms that will stimulate temperature increase, including through a decreased reflection of solar energy due to the melting of glaciers, and increased cloud cover that will exacerbate the greenhouse effect. Noting that the complex relationships in the water cycle are still poorly understood, he predicted that the water cycle will intensify, causing extreme weather events such as hurricanes and increasing the frequency and severity of droughts and floods.
Introduction to the Framework Theme
Carl Strock, Commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), highlighted recent disasters including the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, saying they reinforced the notion of a global community. He emphasized that all countries can be affected and said that lessons learned can be applied globally.

Noting that the structure of the USACE helped to ensure a swift response, Strock addressed lessons learned, including the unsuccessful aspects of the relief effort, such as ineffective communication among federal, state, and local authorities. He stressed the need for: a national digital database that highlights risk areas; pre-positioned response experts outside the impact area; a holistic and integrated response; and better communication of the risks to the population in order to provide best control and protection.
Global Climate Change and Urban Flood Mitigation
Left: Ricardo Troncoso-Gaytá, University of Baja California, presented on the analysis and foresight of climatic scenarios on the Pacific side of Baja California. He described phenomena affecting scenarios in the region such as El Niño and tropical deforestation.
Right: Dolores Hipolito, Philippines' Department of Public Works and Highways, explained that community participation in disaster prevention measures ensures peoples' awareness, acceptance and mobilization.
Hurricane Katrina and Other Major Water-Related Disasters

Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Netherlands Vice-Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, highlighted the country's 800 years of experience in risk management. Noting that 60 percent of the Netherlands lies beneath sea level and recalling a disastrous flood in 1953, she described a new national policy that allows rivers to periodically flood.

Addressing lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Steven Stockton, USACE, described severe damage to the City of New Orleans, US, which totaled US$ 100 billion, displaced 1.5 million people, and took 1420 lives. He highlighted rehabilitation efforts in the city, including water drainage, and detailed the extended struggle in bringing about a hurricane protection system.

François Guerquin, Marseille Water Supply Company, said people cannot prepare themselves for all disasters. He described his company's efforts to provide services during humanitarian crises and described its contribution to rehabilitation activities in Sri Lanka following the Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Sustainability of Water and Sanitation Services in the Context of Disaster Risk Reduction

Andrés Ruíz Morcillo, Director General, Commission for Drinking Water and Sewerage of Quintana Roo, presented on the disaster response to Hurricane Wilma in Cancun, Mexico, in 2005, noting that preparedness is essential since communications are often disabled during a hurricane.

Hans Spruijt, UNICEF, presented on disaster relief in Ethiopia. Noting that Ethiopia receives the world's highest level of per capita emergency relief and the lowest level of per capita development aid, he emphasized the need to shift from emergency relief approaches to developmental approaches in disaster-prone regions.

Session Chair Sálvano Briceño, Director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Inter-Agency Secretariat, introduced the "Hyogo Framework for Action: 2005-2015," adopted at the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction to help countries develop strategies for natural disaster risk management.
Groundwater and Risk Management

Presenting on local actions, Jeroen Aerts, Free University of Amsterdam, highlighted the positive impacts of a project in eastern Kenya in which more than 450 sand dams have been built with community members since 1995 to store water and mitigate drought.

Hu SungGi, World Economic Forum - Japan, highlighted that reinforcement of embankments, construction of dams and artificial ponds and increasing land absorption capacity are strategies that have been used to reduce the impact of extreme events in Japan, including typhoons.

Bhanu Neupane, UNESCO, described a UNESCO project that assesses the effects of the Indian Ocean Tsunami on coastal groundwater along the southeastern coast of India and evaluates solutions to deal with similar situations in the future.
Flood Management

Wang Shucheng, China's Minister of Water Resources, gave a keynote address on the Chinese management strategy to prevent flooding. Stating that flood management is a long-term challenge, he stressed the need for implementation of scientific flood management for "harmonious coexistence between man and nature," highlighting that flood control systems must be adaptable to socioeconomic development.

Minoru Kuriki, Director of Japan's National Institute for Land and Infrastructure, described characteristics of rivers, conventional flood control techniques, integrated flood management, and new approaches used in Japan. He recommended changes in housing practices, the use of inundation control facilities, preparations for exact and smooth evacuations, and capacity building for effective relief, recovery and reconstruction.

Stating that over one billion people live on flood plains, Aly Shady, President of the International Water Resources Association, stressed the need for flood protection preparations, including: forecasting; improving hydrological knowledge and data; devising plans and building protection; establishing shelters during times of flood; building institutional capacity; and carrying out restoration quickly and effectively to allow for the continuation of normal life.
Role of Dams and Reservoirs in Integrated Flood Management

Stressing that flooding is a natural phenomenon, Ute Collier, WWF, said increased risk is mainly anthropogenic. She noted that dams that are not designed to accommodate larger floods pose a risk, and that dams inhibit the beneficial aspects of floods, such as sedimentation.

Li Lifeng, WWF, addressed changes in China's flood management policy after the big 1998 Yangtze flood, including converting cultivated lands to wetlands and lakes. Presenting a local case study, he noted significant environmental, social and economic benefits, including increased food production, ecotourism and hydrological restoration.

Yosuke Tomizawa, Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, presented a case study on flood management in the Kitakami River basin, Japan. Noting that the basin's geological instability and large amounts of precipitation exacerbate soil erosion and floods, he said dams have proved to be an effective measure to protect the population.
Reducing Human Loss of Life Caused by Water-Related Disasters, Including Tsunamis and Landslides
Left: Suresh Yavalkar, Institute for Sustainable Development and Research (ISDR), highlighted the outcomes of a national workshop on tsunami rehabilitation, held in India in 2005, as a means to raise public awareness.

Right: Noting "The Tsunami Challenge" project, Rei Asada, JWF, described "Two Faced Sea," a book about disaster prevention distributed at workshops and schools in Sri Lanka, and highlighted the importance of knowledge sharing.
Empowerment and Democratization Multi-Stakeholder Panel

Margaret Catley-Carson, GWP, noted that an enabling environment is required to foster democratization and empowerment but stressed that the operators who have the ability to create an enabling environment often do not know how to do so.

Pedro Arrojo, New Water Culture Foundation, stated that water is an ethical issue that cannot be addressed in the market because its value extends beyond an economic value. He stated that human beings have a right to a healthy ecosystem and that water is needed for the sustainability of ecosystems.

Ger Bergkamp, IUCN, argued that local communities need to build capacity to engage in political negotiations and processes.
Intergenerational Dialogue

Donna Goodman, UNICEF, introduced the local actions on water, sanitation and hygiene in schools, presented by youth representatives from Japan, Kenya, Laos, Mexico, and the US.

A young panelist from Kenya.

Two young panelists from Laos.
Ministerial Conference

José Luis Luege Tamargo, Mexico's Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, welcomed ministers and high-level officials, noting that over 140 delegations and 70 ministers were in attendance. Underscoring the obligation to offer access to safe and clean water to all citizens, he said access to water is linked to improving quality of life and health and stressed the importance of focusing particularly on the local level.

Noting that lack of access to water is a major source of death and disease in the world, Loïc Fauchon, WWC President, urged the 4th Forum to affirm the right to water. He said women and children walking long ways to find water is no longer acceptable, and recalled that we bear a decisive responsibility to address this reality. Fauchon announced the launch of WWC's "Water for Schools" initiative, which seeks to provide access to water in one thousand schools in ten countries.

Ryutaro Hashimoto, Chair of the UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation and former Prime Minister of Japan, gave a keynote address on financing for local water projects, focusing on actions proposed in the Board's Compendium of Actions. He said the Compendium sets out actions that key actors should take to remove obstacles and bottlenecks in achieving the internationally agreed water and sanitation targets, with a focus on: financing; water operators partnerships; sanitation; monitoring and reporting; IWRM; and water and disasters.
Side Event: Protecting the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities

Participants at a multi-stakeholder dialogue session on the UNEP Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) were given an overview of the GPA, along with presentations on the linkage between freshwater, coastal areas and oceans, and on successes and challenges encountered by public water and sanitation agencies in France. Panelists lamented that many within the freshwater sector fail to recognize or understand its linkage to coastal areas and oceans, noting that nearly half of Earth's population and two thirds of its cities are in coastal areas. Panelists noted that 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from land-based activities, and called for greater dialogue on the linkage between freshwater and oceans, and further education of policymakers. In ensuing discussion, participants discussed ideas for the Second Intergovernmental Review of the GPA, to be held 16-20 October 2006 in Beijing, China.
Around the Forum

Conference volunteers and participants alike wanted to pose for photos with Nobel Laureate Mario José Molina in his home town of Mexico City.

After their conference, ministers toured the water fair...

looking at posters and other information at the pavilions...

...and learning about the latest water technologies.

Camera-wielding crowds gathered at the booth of one pump and water control company when one of the well-dressed young ladies working at the booth changed into a bikini and demonstrated the jacuzzi on display.

More Information

4th World Water Forum Site
Conference Program
World Water Council

Related Links

3rd World Water Forum,
Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, Japan, March 2003
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Ramsar COP-9,
Kampala, Uganda, November 2005
3rd Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands,
Paris, France, January 2006